Poison frogs secrete alkaloid toxins in their skin as defence mechanisms against predators. Numerous studies have shown that the origin of alkaloid toxins in the skin is through ‘sequestration from diet’, i.e. uptake and storage of toxins or their chemical precursors, mostly from consumed arthropods. There exists the intriguing possibility that the gut microbiome of these frogs may play a role in this process. We address this question by looking at the organism together with its associated microbial communities, an effective symbiotic relationship between host and microbiome that could have allowed phenotypic adaptation of the host to a toxic diet. We sequenced the Bacterial and Archaeal 16S rRNA regions of the gut microbiome of 7 Poison frog species and 9 outgroup frog species caught in the rainforest of Eastern Peru. Frog species were selected based on sharing similar microhabitats and comparable individual sizes. A comparative analysis of the microbiome composition across all our samples allowed us to identify a core group of abundant symbiotic microbes unique to poison frogs in spite of intrinsic variation within species. We speculate this group could be associated to their ability to sequester toxins and we carried further metagenomic sequencing to allow us to determine possible functions that may be involved in toxin processing in these frogs.

  • This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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